Zhang Fei

Zhang Fei (died 221) was a military general of the state of Shu Han during the three kingdoms era of Chinese history.

Early to middle career

Zhang Fei was originally a wealthy butcher from Zhuo Commandery (present-day Zhuozhou, Hebei ). In 184, he and Guan Yu joined Liu Bei's militia to assist the government in suppressing the Yellow Turban Rebellion, which broke out towards the end of the han dynasty. His relationship with Liu Bei and Guan Yu was so close that they treated each other like brothers. Since then, Zhang Fei followed Liu Bei on most of his early exploits.

In 194, Liu Bei succeeded Tao Qian as governor of Xu Province. The following year, Liu Bei led his army to counter an invasion force from Yuan Shu, and left Zhang Fei in charge of Xiapi, capital of Xu Province. Zhang Fei had a quarrel with Cao Bao (former chancellor of Xiapi under the deceased Tao Qian), and he killed the latter in a bedlam. As Cao Bao had been in service for a long time, his death seethed a turmoil within the community. Some of Cao Bao's colleagues summoned Lü Bu, who was taking shelter under Liu Bei at that time, to drive Zhang Fei out from the city. Lü Bu dispatched to Xiapi, and the citizens opened the gate to welcome his forces. Zhang Fei could not resist, but managed to escape from the city and rejoined Liu Bei and Guan Yu. Without a tenable base, Liu Bei went out of food and finally surrendered to Lü Bu, who attempted to mollify the former by ceding Xiaopei to him. Liu Bei's burgeoning power soon drew Lü Bu's trepidation, and the latter attacked the former. Liu Bei and his subordinates were forced to temporarily join Cao Cao at Xu City. There, Zhang Fei was appointed "General of the Household" (中郎將).

In 199, after Cao Cao eliminated Lü Bu, Liu Bei wheedled Cao Cao to send him back to Xu Province. There, he mutinied and killed Che Zhou, the governor appointed by Cao Cao, and established himself an independent warlord. The following year, Cao Cao attacked Xu Province and defeated Liu Bei, forcing the latter to take shelter under the strongest warlord of the time, Yuan Shao. Zhang Fei followed Liu Bei to Runan after "borrowing" an army from Yuan Shao, but they were defeated by Cao Cao again and sought shelter under Liu Biao, governor of Jing Province. Liu Biao put Liu Bei in charge of Xinye.

Efforts in establishing Shu

In 208, following the death of Liu Biao, Cao Cao launched a southern campaign to attack Jing Province. Liu Bei abandoned Xinye and led his followers, including both his troops and civilians, on an exodus towards Xiakou. Cao Cao's army caught up with the dilatory mass at Changban, Dangyang, after pursuing them for a day and a night. Zhang Fei led 20 horsemen to act as the rearguard and covered Liu Bei's escape. When they had all crossed the river, Zhang Fei ordered the bridges to be destroyed. He held his position at the opposite bank and shouted at the incoming enemy, "I'm Zhang Yide ("Yide" was Zhang Fei's style name). Come and fight me to the death!" No one dared to approach him and Zhang Fei successfully bought time for Liu Bei and his men to escape safely.

Liu Bei took control of southern Jing Province after the Battle of Red Cliffs and appointed Zhang Fei as Administrator of Yidu and "General Who Subdues Barbarians", and granted him the title of "Marquis of Xinting". Zhang Fei was later relocated to Nan Commandery.

Efforts in taking Yi Province

In 211, Liu Bei led an expedition force to Yi Province on the invitation of the governor Liu Zhang, leaving behind Zhuge Liang, Zhao Yun and Zhang Fei to guard Jing Province. During that time, Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun filibustered Lady Sun from bringing Liu Bei's young son, Liu Shan, with her back to Sun Quan's territory. In 212, Liu Bei officially declared war on Liu Zhang after he integrated Liu Zhang's forces stationed at Boshui Pass into his own. Liu Zhang then hurriedly mobilized his remaining forces to intercept Liu Bei from getting to Chengdu, capital of his jurisdiction. The following year, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang led separate forces from Jing Province to reinforce Liu Bei.

Along the way, Zhang Fei arrived at Jiangzhou, which was defended by Liu Zhang's general Yan Yan. Zhang Fei defeated and captured Yan Yan in battle. Yan Yan condemned Zhang Fei for invading Yi Province and showed no fear in the face of death. Zhang Fei was deeply impressed and he spared Yan Yan's life and treated him like a guest. Zhang Fei's army proceeded to break through Liu Zhang's defenses and eventually reached Chengdu, where he rendezvoused with Liu Bei. Liu Zhang surrendered and yielded Yi Province to Liu Bei. Liu Bei rewarded Zhang Fei with 500 jin of gold, 1000 jin of silver, 5000 strings of coins and 1000 rolls of silk, in addition to appointing him Administrator of Baxi.

Hanzhong Campaign

In 215, Cao Cao's general Zhang He led an army to attack Baxi (present-day Nanchong, Sichuan ) at the northeast of the Ba region, in an attempt to relocate the inhabitants to Hanzhong. Zhang Fei led an army to resist Zhang He and both sides held their positions for more than 50 days. Later, Zhang Fei directed about 10,000 troops through an alternative route to intercept and ambush Zhang He from a direction the latter neglected. Zhang He was defeated and escaped on foot with a few dozen men through a narrow path back to Nanzheng (capital city of Hangzhong Commandery).

In the winter of 217, Liu Bei personally mobilized to wrestle Hanzhong from Cao Cao. He sent Zhang Fei and Ma Chao to lead Wu Lan (吳蘭), Lei Tong and Ren Kui (任夔) on taking Wudu Commandery, which was guarded by Cao Hong. Zhang and Ma attempted to trick Cao Hong into believing that they were planning to attack his retreat route by overtly threatening Cao Hong's rear, but Cao Xiu saw through the ruse, and Zhang Fei's forces suffered a defeat that absolved him from continuing the campaign — Lei Tong and Ren Kui were killed in action, while Wu Lan fled to take shelter from the Di tribes, where he was subsequently killed by a Di leader, Qiangduan.

When Liu Bei finally annexed Hanzhong two years later, many people thought that Liu Bei would appoint Zhang Fei as Area Commander of the region, but Wei Yan was chosen instead. Liu Bei's decision disappointed Zhang Fei and surprised many others. Zhang Fei was appointed "General of the Right" (右將軍) instead.


In 221 after declaring himself "Emperor of Shu Han", Liu Bei appointed Zhang Fei as "General of Chariots and Cavalry" (車騎將軍) and "Director of Retainers" (司隸校尉), and granted him the title of "Marquis of Xi" (西鄉侯). In the same year, he started a campaign against Sun Quan to avenge Guan Yu's death and the loss of Jing Province.

Zhang Fei responded to Liu Bei's call and prepared his army to rendezvous with Liu at Jiangzhou. However, he was murdered by his subordinates Fan Qiang and Zhang Da at Linjiang. The two men then defected to Eastern Wu, bringing Zhang Fei's severed head along with them. Zhang Fei was posthumously granted the title of "Marquis Huan" (桓侯). His body was buried in Langzhong while his head was buried at Yunyang. A Zhang Fei Shrine and a Zhang Fei Temple were later built at these locations respectively.

Personal information


Lady Xiahou (夏侯氏), niece of Xiahou Yuan. When she was about 13 or 14 years old, she was captured by Zhang Fei while out gathering firewood. Zhang Fei married her and they had a daughter, who became Empress Jing'ai of Shu.


Zhang Bao, died at a young age

Zhang Shao (張紹), served as a Deputy Director of the Imperial Secretariat in Shu, accompanied Liu Shan to Luoyang after the fall of Shu


Empress Jing'ai, born to Lady Xiahou, married Liu Shan

Empress Zhang, married Liu Shan after the death of Empress Jing'ai, accompanied Liu Shan to Luoyang after the fall of Shu


Zhang Zun, son of Zhang Bao, served as Imperial Secretary in Shu, killed in action at Mianzhu Pass during the Conquest of Shu by Wei

Last update 30-05-2012

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